Ah, the ballet...
"The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all."
— Russian proverb
Any work of media that attract viewers not because they're particularly entertaining—many of them, in point of fact, are dull or otherwise pointless—but because of some gimmick involved in the production: Any work for which the method by which it is created is more interesting than the result.
Featuring noteworthy non-actors in major roles
(or celebrity guest stars for television episodes) can qualify something for this trope: we don't go to movies with Paris Hilton in them
to see how well she acts, after all. Particularly large casts
, shockingly difficult productions, unique production methods... anything that's used to sell a work more than its actual content can qualify it for Bear status. The Oner
is usually a Bear as well, and Live Episodes
too. A Tech Demo Game
runs a high risk of being a bear, if the developers cannot balance its gimmick with good gameplay. Another type of Bear is The Item Number
, especially if it ranks high on the Fanservice
scale and/or features a very well-known "item girl" (or guy).
Note that this doesn't include works in which outside events make us more interested in it - The Dark Knight
certainly got a considerable amount of attention as a result of Heath Ledger
's death, but it wasn't a Dancing Bear. For that, see Reality Subtext
See also Come for the X, Stay for the Y
, when the work has a lot more going on than just
a bear that dances, and Just Here for Godzilla
, for cases where that happens, but the audience doesn't care. See also Overshadowed By Controversy
, where a Dancing Bear is especially well-known for controversial moments regardless of other factors.
And no, it's not meant to be followed with "painted wings"
Anime & Manga
- Voices of a Distant Star is an amazing short film as it is. What largely drew people's attention to it, on the other hand, was the fact that it was entirely animated by one man on his home computer.
- This Boy Can Fight Aliens! gained attention for the same reason, though it wasn't nearly as well-received.
- The anime of Aku no Hana attracted viewers mainly because it was rotoscoped, and the quality and/or terribleness of this animation style was discussed far more than the show's actual content.
- William Wegman's works are known specifically because of his use of weimaraners in them.
- The primary reason people read 100 Months is because it is the last work John Hicklenton completed before he died, and indeed completing it was the only thing that delayed him taking his own life.
- The DC Comics series 52 was sold not on its content but on the fact that it was a 52-issue miniseries that would (1) publish an issue a week for a year (2) in "real time" (i.e., the events of each issue took place over the course of the week following the week during which the events of the previous issue took place) (3) to fill in the year of time skipped during DC's "One Year Later" event, (4) during which Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were missing. It was generally well-received, but led to a brief trend of weekly miniseries for DC, some of which were ... less good.
- There are several My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfics that are famous almost solely due to the novelty of using copious amounts of Gorn rather than for actually being good stories.
- Cupcakes - Pinkie Pie tortures and murders Rainbow Dash. As with The Human Centipede mentioned below, the premise is more horrifying than the execution, and the fic is better remembered for leaving an impact on the Friendship is Magic fandom than for the actual quality of the writing.
- Also, Rainbow Factory, partially because it's sometimes described as "Cupcakes, except it's Rainbow Dash torturing/killing Scootaloo" and partially because of WoodenToaster's Creepy Awesome song of the same title (Fun fact: The fanfic was inspired by the song!).
- Sweet Apple Massacre adds elements of sexual violence as well as physical, but it's still all gorn.
- Similarly, the fan video Double Rainboom is known mainly for the ambitiousness of it's premise: a full-length fan-made episode of professional quality. Needless to say, whether or not the video itself is any good in and of itself is up for debate.
- Many of the most well-known fanfictions, like My Immortal, are notable for being so unbelievably horrible that they circle around and approach masterpiecehood from the other side. That is to say, the draw is not so much the content, so much as the legendary badness of the work itself.
- The Subspace Emissary's Worlds Conquest isn't known for being particularly good or particularly bad — rather, it is best known for being flabbergastingly long. Written nonstop ever since Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out in 2008, it clocked in at 3,548,615 words by the time chapter 208 was finished. For comparison, War and Peace is about under 600,000 words. The author has said that he hopes he can finish it all up at chapter 300, but wouldn't be surprised if it continued all the way up to chapter 400.
- Avatar - The whole fuss about the technological achievements necessary to pull the movie off: 3D digital film cameras, motion capture refinements, etc. Arguably the never-fully-disclosed but definitely astronomical budget and the marketing-induced hype.
- The 2003 film Russian Ark is a Dancing Bear. A 90-minute exploration of Russia's legendary museum and historical building the Hermitage, the film moves over centuries, features a literal Cast of Thousands, has amazing costuming, good performances, and so on. It's also The Oner.
- Alfred Hitchcock regarded Rope as a failed experiment in stretching the limits of making a film as few cuts as possible. Film critics and historians would agree that the technical execution left much to be desired, but the writing and performances are still well regarded.
- Gladiator wouldn't have qualified purely as a result of Oliver Reed's death ... but the fact that the producers made a big deal about how they used special effects to allow the movie to be completed puts it deep into this territory.
- TRON was viewed by the Hollywood community, when released, as a Bear. Many people who went to see it went simply to see the computer animation, not out of any expectation of high entertainment.
- While the extreme difficulty of the production of The Abyss was not explicitly used as a selling point in the advertising, it came up again and again in entertainment news coverage of the film.
- Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, a 2002 film produced entirely by Inuit, is a reasonably good movie ... but the fact that it won 20 international awards and was nominated for ten more can really only be explained by people's appreciation for the fact that a film made by, for, and in the Inuit community was able to dance at all.
- The film Redline allegedly went for this by getting star Eddie Griffin to crash a car as a publicity scheme. It failed miserably because car fans, presumably the target market, were outraged at the destruction of an extremely expensive and rare car as part of the stunt. Although according to Griffin's side of the story as told in "Freedom Of Speech" the car crash was completely unintentional on his part and was not a publicity stunt.
- The movie Timecode is not just done in Real Time, but in real time with a four-way split screen throughout.
- The sole selling point for the movie The Cure for Insomnia was that, with a running time of 87 hours, it was the world's longest movie.
- Incubus, filmed entirely in Esperanto and starring William Shatner.
- Andy Warhol's Sleep and Empire.
- This was William Castle's entire schtick. Perhaps the most famous example is The Tingler, which involved the "spine-tingling" sensation people experience when afraid being caused by a deadly monster. Certain seats in theaters showing the film had devices installed so that at certain points the viewer would feel something crawling up their back...
- Heath Ledger's last film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ledger only managed to film half of his role before dying, and Colin Farrel, Jude Law and Johnny Depp were brought in to play the character when he was in an Alternate Dimension. Quite a few people watched the film just to see if they could pull it off.
- For Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), Blake Edwards and MGM/UA used mostly-unused scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) of the late Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau for the film's first half by putting them into a different storyline via new scenes with the series regulars. The second half, after Clouseau "goes missing", is a Clip Show of his greatest hits tied together with a reporter investigating the matter. Pitted against a number of production obstacles, Edwards' new film became a dancing bear that spiked the audience's curiosity to come out and judge if he could make it funny. The fact that Edwards couldn't became clear when Sellers's widow successfully sued him and the studio for tarnishing her late husband's image. This proved a bad omen for the next film, 1983's Curse of..., which picked up where this left off to introduce Clouseau's Replacement Scrappy.
- Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid is built around the clever editing and production tricks that make it seem like Steve Martin is directly interacting with the characters in old movie clips. Without those, there wouldn't be a movie.
- The films of Ray Harryhausen have this kind of appeal. Most of them are not what one would normally call "good" movies, but they still fill people with a sense of wonder at Harryhausen's skill, patience, and attention to detail.
- The Human Centipede, which is about three people getting sewn together anus-to-mouth. The premise is far more horrifying than the execution.
- The Terror of Tiny Town, a 1938 Western movie with an all-midget cast.
- Samuel L. Jackson claims he was in the movie Snakes on a Plane only because of the title. The title alone made it vastly popular on the Internet, long before it was released.
- Fitzcarraldo is best-known simply because of its Troubled Production, and the fact that you're really watching people moving a ship through the jungle, even using techniques more difficult than the ones of the real event it's based on.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Sin City were novel when they came out in the mid-2000s because they were among the first major films to use a "digital backlot" which blended live action characters with entirely digital backgrounds.
- For Sky Captain, the movie was also noteworthy for featuring Sir Laurence Olivier a full fifteen years after his death, via the use of careful editing of previous recordings. This was in fact the main reason Jude Law decided to be in the movie.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit was sold on the spectacle of animated and live action characters seamlessly integrated across a cameo-laden full-length feature film.
- On a similar note and premise, Wreck-It Ralph is starting to have the same effect as far as being cameo-laden goes. Only featuring video game characters this time.
- Act of Valor is a feature length film showcasing active-duty Navy Seals using their actual equipment and methods.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe contains at least a few genuinely entertaining movies, but most of its appeal to the general public seems to come from the uniqueness of a comic publisher starting its own film studio, and later having that studio's franchises do a Cross Over.
- Michael Jackson's This Is It wouldn't have been made if not for the fact that Jackson died before the concert series he was rehearsing for could take place, leaving the rehearsal footage that was shot for his personal use as the last footage of him performing at all, and thus of huge interest to his fans.
- Escape From Tomorrow probably wouldn't be getting as much hype as it is were it not for the fact that the film - a dark surrealist neo-noir depicting a man slowly going insane - was extensively sneak-shot throughout Walt Disney Theme Parks
- Mel Brooks decided to make a Silent Movie. Titled Silent Movie. In 1976.
- The most widely publicized fact about Eragon was that the author finished the first draft when he was fifteen - he was nineteen by the time it was published (after extensive revision) and also received a lot of critical slack for that reason. Whether or not it has outgrown its beardom is a matter of debate.
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby received a lot of attention for the laborious way the novel was written. The author suffered "locked-in syndrome" and blinked his left eyelid to respond to a transcriber repeatedly reciting a French language frequency-ordered alphabet until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. This took ten months. The book itself was well-received.
- Look upon this lipogrammatic work Gadsby, in which a story is told without using a particular glyph (past 'd', prior to 'f') commonly found in this script.
- To many people, War and Peace is remembered because it's one of the longest classic narratives ever written.
- Similarly, Clarissa is remembered for being the longest novel in the English language.
- Though Finnegans Wake is made by the same author as the better known, better studied Ulysses, most people know the book for its odd, stream-of-consciousness writing style.
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is best remembered for its exposure of the unsanitary practices of the meat-packing industry. It is often used as an example of the muckracking genre. However, Sinclair intended the book to be an indictment of capitalism and a paean to socialism.
- A fairly common element of the Philippine entertainment scene is the loveteam: an actor and an actress who are constantly paired with each other on projects. Many fans watch shows featuring these pairings simply because the actors are in a real life relationship, or the fans themselves are hoping for a real life romance to happen between the two. Producers often cash in on these by hyping the off screen romance instead of the project's merits. Worse, some often fabricate a supposed romance to generate interest.
- The MMORPG genre (at the very least until World of Warcraft). Just the idea of playing with hundreds or millions of other people simply by plugging in your modem makes even the worst balanced exposure to the most annoyingly ill-behaved players tremendously appealing.
- Many modern MMORPGs, especially the scads that South Korea churns out each year, sell themselves this way. Promos typically highlight the one or two things a game does differently from others while glossing over the fact that the rest of the game mechanics are identical to its competitors. When this is done well the token differences alone can hold hardcore players for years even when more innovative new titles appear, but if the new-ish parts of the experience aren't a big enough part of core gameplay the game won't be able to hold its userbase.
- Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch - a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (which typically runs 65-70 minutes) digitally stretched to 24 hours without pitch shifting.
- Karlheinz Stockhausen's opera Light contains a piece that is supposed to be played by a string quartet sitting in four different flying helicopters, their music then transmitted to a big hangar for people to listen to.
- Another Stockhausen opus, Gruppen, calls for three separate orchestras to perform equally distant from the audience. This plan doesn't fit with many concert halls.
- Erik Satie's "Vexations" is a single page of piano music with a suggestion to play it 840 times in a row. The first performance to follow Satie's suggestion to the letter took place in 1963, with a tag team of pianists, and lasted over 18 hours.
- The 1984 album Neptune by “one man band” Celluloid is notable for being entirely played on the Mellotron.
- John Cage's 1952 'composition', 4'33". It's famous for being "four minutes and 33 seconds of silence", often either regarded as a sublime anti-music or an Emperor's New Clothes of modern art, YMMV. More technically, it's not silence but ambient white noise: literally the sound of an orchestra sitting there quietly in front of an audience with their instruments for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and not playing them.
- Similar to Duke Nukem Forever below, while critics are mixed on the quality of Guns N' Roses's forever-delayed Chinese Democracy, fans are amazed it was released at all. Its actual musical qualities are submerged beneath the fact it notoriously took fifteen years (and a record-breaking alleged $13m) to make.
- Gustav Mahler's eighth symphony for large orchestra and multiple choruses was billed in its premiere as "Symphony of a Thousand" (most modern performances fall a few hundred short of that number); Mahler privately mocked this, calling it a "Barnum and Bailey production."
- Various novelty covers of songs, from 8-bit remakes to ukelele renditions to metal versions of decidedly non-metal songs (or decidedly non-metal versions of metal songs).
- Any posthumous "collaboration," particularly one where the artist has been dead for a while.
- This video contains perhaps the worst rendition of the James Bond theme you will ever hear (zip forward to the 14-minute mark). What makes it fascinating is that it is performed by miniature autonomous robotic helicopters.
- The Muppet Movie had an extremely well-received scene of Kermit riding a bicycle when he first sets out on his journey to become a Hollywood star. This scene was popular because it was assumed that it must have been difficult to film, but it was actually pretty easy to film and, to the annoyance of the producers, it took focus away from the extremely difficult scene in which Gonzo is carried away by a bunch of balloons.
- Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is more famous for its troubled production than anything else. The technical aspects (including a spectacular aerial battle above the audience) are the main reasons to see the show.
- The Nintendo Wii was the console version of this when it first came out; the platform was sold not on the quality of its games, but on the fact that it had a unique control mechanism. The Wii is moving away from this, though it does play up the motion controls as part of its current campaign to appeal to "casual gamers". Hardcore gamers still often deride it as a dancing bear.
- Fracture, made even more egregious with the fact that its sole selling point - terrain deformation - feels underutilized.
- Red Faction, with its groundbreaking GeoMod technology and physics simulation which went almost completely unused.
- Years later, Red Faction Guerrilla utilizes a newer version of the technology. Still a game based entirely around environmental destruction, but, most critics agreed, a far more entertaining one.
- Heavy Rain attracted attention for its highly cinematic presentation and unique gameplay that focused heavily on quicktime events. The game was most ambitious for having its story as its selling point, thus the cinematic presentation and streamlined gameplay. While critics praised it for its unique qualities, many gamers and critics alike panned it for its poor writing.
- For all its flaws, Kane And Lynch: Dead Men was certainly an ambitious game, and yet IO Interactive decided with the sequel to strip nearly all of the most unique qualities of the first game and simply focused on a typical (if perhaps more functional than the first one) cover-based Third-Person Shooter with a documentary-style visual gimmick (and a Last Stand perk). The results were rather divisive.
- All of the mindjacking didn't prevent Mindjack, the underlying game based around it, to be just another forgettable cover-based shooter.
- The NARC (2005) remake banked on controversy over its drug use mechanic to help sell games. Although it did get media attention, it didn't sell very well.
- Reasonably complex / commercial-grade games made entirely by one person tend to get a lot of attention for this, irrespective of their actual quality. Some examples include:
- Cave Story
- Dwarf Fortress
- Touhou, although the fact that the cast is made up almost entirely of Cute Monster Girls might also have something to do with it.
- It's also a Dancing Bear on another front: If it weren't for its characters and massive array of fan works, it would be simply be dismissed as yet another shmup series. In fact, many fans don't even play the games.
- Also, it's one of the few Bullet Hell games most people are familiar with. And for good reason! Some of the bullet patterns are mind-blowingly complex! (Just look at the page image for Bullet Hell.)
- Aurora 4 X
- Dust: An Elysian Tail was designed, programmed, and illustrated almost entirely by Dean Dodrill, with only voice-acting and music coming from other people.
- Though not developed by one man any more, Minecraft allows each player to become their own "one-man/woman development team" in-game, due to the absolutely huge game world note and seemingly infinite building possibilities boggles the mind to say the least.
- Skylanders is a fairly enjoyable series, however what makes it stand out (aside from being attached to the Spyro the Dragon franchise) is the toy gimmick. You have to purchase toys in order to play certain characters.
- Duke Nukem Forever definitely qualifies, if only for the fact that it's spent over twelve years in development and has already won numerous awards for its repeated delays, even outliving the game's own developers after they were axed by their publishers. At this point, just the fact that this game exists and can actually be played is reason enough for many to buy it.
- L.A. Noire for its motion/facial capture technique.
- The cancelled Guitar Hero 7 was going this route. They were going to make a new guitar that was close enough to the real thing that it would make the game exponentially more difficult, but not close enough to teach you how to play, and give you venues that responded to the song. They spent so much money on these new features that they couldn't afford a good soundtrack, which is kind of the point of music games in the first place.
- Lately both Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops have had a very tiny and, depending on one's opinion, useless gimmick in their DLC maps. Two good examples were the "Usable Elevator" and "Destroyable Shortcut" in Black Ops.
- Alpha Waves is pretty much known only for the fact that it was a 3D platformer made in the 8-bit era.
- For much the same reason as Skylanders, Disney Infinity is mostly notable for two things; it has Disney characters and sets you buy as figures, and it's a toy box you can make other games in.
- Brutal Mario in general. With the gimmick being 'lots and lots of ASM that stretches the engine to its limits. It's quite a common gimmick for Mario hacks in general, with other examples of being Mario Fantasy, Super Mario LD and the Ore World series, which also have wildly varying quality of level design.
- Axe Cop is popular in large part because of the sheer novelty of a comic written by a 5-6 year old boy, albeit with art and interpretation by his 30 year old brother, a talented professional cartoonist.
- Many XKCD-comic-inspired Defictionalizations are only recognized because of their inspirational source. The "Tetris in hell" game, for example, is interesting entirely because someone actually bothered to make it even though it doesn't really add anything to the original joke.
- The main gimmick of Dinosaur Comics is that almost all strips are identical, with only the occasional minor alteration.
- Fred Perry's Gold Digger animated miniseries The Time Raft. Its poor acting, rudimentary animation, and extreme Schedule Slip are forgiven because Mr. Perry did everything (besides the voice acting). He wrote the script, created the music, and drew every single frame of this hour-long animated movie by himself.
- The reason how Clutch Cargo penetrated into pop culture as far as it did is solely because of its Trope Codifier status in using Synchro Vox. The show The Higgins Boys and Gruber even claims that "If it weren't for the lips, it'd be a filmstrip!"
- Hilariously now, Disney apparently considered the original Toy Story a Dancing Bear, with promotion centered on the fact that this was the first entirely CGI feature-length film. Some of the original trailers featured only the darkest sequences and an 'adult' score different from the movie's, and practically 'forgot' to tell the viewer that this is a family film about two toys wanting to return to their owner.
- In some ways, this was Pixar's view of the film as well. At the time, Pixar was primarily in the business of making 3D rendering technology, including hardware platforms sold to VFX studios, though they never sold particularly well due to the high cost of sufficiently advanced hardware at the time. To the extent that they did any film, it was usually shorts designed as tech demos of what their rendering technology was capable of, in order to help drive sales. Toy Story, by being feature length and entirely done with their tech, was a particularly ambitious tech demo to prove that yes, an entire movie could be made this way and not just a few special effects scenes. Fortunately for Pixar, it turned out that they were actually really good at making movies too, and kept with it.